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How do you define a Strong Two Bid?

edited February 2013 in Anything Else
Today, one of the players in my improver group held:


and opened 2H (strong). The auction continued 2NT (neg) - 3H and partner raised to 4H and all was well. The opener had her 8 tricks so what was the problem?

The issue is that anything more than 2H could have been a disaster. Partner had the AQ of clubs and a couple of hearts which enabled the contract to make.

A strong two should not be based just on 8 tricks. It should be reserved for the kind of hand where you are afraid that partner will pass a 1-level opening bid yet game could still be available. Remember that partner will always respond with 6+hcp.

Thus on the hand quoted there is no need to rush things with a 2-bid. If partner doesn't have 6hcp it is unlikely that game will make.

A better two bid would be a hand like this:


Here any one of three cards (SK, HA,CA) and a couple of low spades will guarantee game and you are afraid that with just 4hcp partner will not recognise this and may pass. So open 2S if this bid is available as a strong bid.


  • edited 10:04AM
    Why should a strong two not be based on 8 playing tricks. It's a simple question I have 8 tricks, if you think you have the 2 or 3 tricks in your hand take me to game in my chosen suit. Of course there is the questions of whether whether there's a slam on and how you find it but it comes down to how often or how seldom and slam chnaces are rare and game chnaces are common so in my view it's better to miss the odd slam but don't miss game.
  • edited 10:04AM
    If partner has "2 or 3 tricks" then they will have the necessary 6 or more points to respond to a normal opening bid of 1 - and you will learn more by allowing them to do so. If you are stronger you will likely want to open 2C. So there is no need to stand on a chair and say "look at me, I'm a clever boy/girl, I can make 8 tricks". You learn more by getting a truthful response to a 1 bid out of partner. Expert players bid more slowly, but reach more slams.

    Which if any of these hands qualifies for an Acol 2-bid?

    A K Q J 6 5
    K 3
    K J 2
    10 5

    Normal 1S (I hope). Plan to jump to 3S (forcing to game if pd responds at 2-level). Perhaps try 3NT if pd bids 1NT.

    A K Q J 6 5
    A J 3
    K Q 10 5

    This hand though only 20hcp is a great hand worth IMO 2C. It's 3 losers and pd would need a dire hand for 4S not to have chances. Open 2C, and after 2D, rebid 2S forcing to game.

    A K Q J 7 4
    8 6
    A Q 7
    A Q 3

    This, though 22hcp, is not as good as hand b. 2NT doesn't look right either. Yes, this is the hand if you playing strong twos on which to use that bid. Macleod, the inventor of Acol 2-bids, wrote that “the essence of the Two Bid is that you are very near to game, but prepared to stop out of it if partner has nothing, or if his “bits” don’t fit.” This looks like that hand.

    But personally I would take the chance and open 2C again (rebidding 2S).

    That enables me to open 2S on hand d:

    K Q J 6 5 3
    Q 7 6
    10 9 8 7

    Standard Weak Two. Nice limit bid - sets the table for partner and obstructs the other side in one bid. My summary therefore is that modern duplicate players do not need to play Acol Strong 2 bids.

    The recommendation:
    - An opening bid of 2C is the system strong bid, forcing to game.
    - 2NT = 20-22hcp balanced ish. Stronger NT hands (23hcp+) can start with 2C and make a NT rebid.
    - 2D-2H-2S are all most effectively played at duplicate as Weak Twos, 6-10hcp and a 6-card suit.
  • edited 10:04AM
    Again everything you say has merit, nothing you say is 'wrong' but again the book says - Page 107.

    An ACOL two is forcing for one round and shows at least 8 playing tricks.
  • Eight tricks is not enough if the bidding is forcing for one round. Nor does your quote say anything about the required defensive value of the hand. The 8PT description is a very poor one but unfortunately has become embedded in players' psyche. Reese in his writing used the expression 'a hand of power and quality' and this is much better, even though less simplistic.
  • edited 10:04AM
    ***2D-2H-2S are all most effectively played at duplicate as Weak Twos, 6-10hcp and a 6-card suit.***

    EBU textbooks have Acol twos instead of weak twos. So this is what students of EBU teachers are taught. I wonder who made this silly decision.
  • edited December 2013
    The EBU ACOL Guide says that a strong 2 "should have at least 8 playing tricks, is forcing for one round,........,  and should have at least two defensive tricks". This may be a silly question but I presume that if you include the AK of spades as counting towards your 8 playing tricks then they can't be double counted as two defensive tricks? 
  • edited 10:04AM

    I think (hope) I can now answer my own question. I have just
    read that for any suit of 5 cards or less the defensive tricks are equal to the
    playing tricks. For a 6 card suit with any number of playing tricks you can
    only count Ace and King as defensive tricks, and for a 7 card suit you can only
    count the Ace as a defensive trick. The above
    hand has 8 playing tricks and 4 defensive tricks. The EBU quote must therefore
    mean that you must hold 8 playing tricks and 2 ADDITIONAL defensive tricks. 

  • edited 10:04AM
    What is a "playing trick"?
  • edited August 2016
    A playing trick is a method of hand valuation - generally most applicable to strong hands.

    Traditionally, one method for assessing the suitability of a hand for a strong Acol two bid is to use Playing Tricks - with an expectation of "at least 8 playing tricks" or "at least 8.5 playing tricks" - depending upon which book you read. As Ned Paul discusses above, the method should probably be used in conjunction with other hand valuation methods to ensure that the hand also has genuine strength and quality.

    Essentially the method boils down to assessing how many tricks you can expect to win from your hand based on "normal" splits. Ned Paul quotes this hand:


    You expect the AK of spades to win tricks in a heart contract and it is reasonable to expect six tricks from hearts based on doubleton support from partner and the suit breaking 3-2 (which you would expect 65% of the time). You are not entitled to assume any tricks in the minors - if partner holds small cards you would be unlikely to make tricks in these suits in a heart contract. So the hand can be assessed as about 8 playing tricks, played in a heart contract.

    Assessing playing tricks is not an exact science. If partner has a singleton and the suit breaks 4-2 (the most likely split), your expectation is only five (or maybe 5.5) tricks from the heart suit.
  • edited 10:04AM
    Hello, If partner has KJx of diamonds and 3 small hearts you would want to be in 4H so opening 1H may be risky.

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